3rd Sunday of Advent - Who Are We? What Are We Doing?

How would we answer someone who asked us, "Who are you?"  Would we identify ourselves as being anointed by the Lord to bring glad tidings to the poor and to heal the brokenhearted? Are we a joyful people, rejoicing always? Would we describe ourselves as the voices in the desert crying out, "Make straight the way of the Lord?" The crowds who followed John the Baptist asked an important question: "What should we do?" These two questions ("Who are you?" and "What shall we do?") are intimately connected.  Who we are is what we do.

makestraighthispathsLike people in every age, they were beset with fear, anxiety, and discouragement.  We have as many reasons as they to be afraid, to be filled with concern about health, economics and social evils.  Every day we face a barrage of images that show us - quite explicitly - how broken our world has become. Every day we are confronted with aggression, competition, greed and the lust for property and power, and the growing disregard for the poor, the homeless and the displaced. There seems to be far too much for us to handle anymore.

And yet today we hear the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul tell us to "Rejoice!" And if what John the Baptist says is true, that "there is one among you whom you do not recognize," then we must reflect on how we greet and treat strangers and whether our behavior gives witness to Christ to all who know or observe us. We become the persons we are by living and doing the work of the Lord.  We do this is by our living generously and imitating his meekness and his self-giving, proclaiming good news to the poor, liberty to captives and announcing the favor of the Lord.

Precisely because things look so bad, we are more apt to turn to the Lord for answers and remedies. It is our very helplessness that leads us to rely more fully on the Lord. And so we too will always cry out: "What should we do?"

Isaiah promises one will be sent by God to heal our broken heart and to give us liberty and the experience of joy in relationship to God. John the Baptist primes the people and calls them to prepare themselves to see God's promise fulfilled in "one who is coming." Jesus' arrival into our lives is always freeing and renewing. Just as the prophet Isaiah promised. That's also what John announced. And, as a result of Christ's arrival Paul directs us to do what should come naturally for believers, "Rejoice always!"

The Lord is in our midst and this is indeed "Good News!" It is the one reality that can answer all our needs and dispel all our fears as we wait and hope.

So, what should we do?

We hear John's call to "make straight the way of the Lord" and so we pray this Advent for renewed fervor of faith, trusting in what Jesus has shown us. It is the face of Jesus we see when we look at the poor, the sick and the homeless. It is face of Jesus we see when confronted with troubles, suffering and failure. We sense His crucified presence when touched by pain and sorrow. We are energized by the power of His resurrected presence when we are buried by weakness, defeat, or death in any form.

We must do deeds that reflect what we have received and what we believe. Our presence in the world must proclaim to all that the Lord indeed is in our midst. Our lives must mirror His life. We must become the same miracles of love, healing and reconciliation to all of our brothers and sisters. Our goodness and compassion must touch those who are blind and deaf to the Lord. Our mercy and acts of service must free those who are crippled by pride and hate.

But most of all we must banish fear and be the source of strength and courage to those around us who are really destroyed by the evil of our day.

In answer to our Advent prayer: "What should we do?" the answer is abundantly clear: "Rejoice! The Lord is in your midst! God's own peace will stand guard over your hearts."